Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 6, 2018


Anansi International: The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Workman Publishing: Born to Dance: Celebrating the Wonder of Childhood by Jordan Matter

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Nobrow Press: Hilda and the Hidden People by Luke Pearson and Stephen Davies

Balzer & Bray: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

University of Pittsburgh Press: The Dogs of Detroit: Stories by Brad Felver

Scholastic Press: Impostors (Uglies #5) by Scott Westerfeld

News

Ellis River Books Hoping to Attract Thru-Hikers After Move

Ellis River Books in Andover, Maine, has moved to a new space on Andover's main street to help bring in more shoppers, including hikers on the nearby Appalachian Trail, the Sun Journal reported. Along with books, cards, art and jewelry, customers can now pick up trail food, shoelaces, duct tape and a variety of other hiking supplies.

Denise Moriba, who owns and operates the bookstore with her husband, Jake Pitcher, told the Sun Journal: "We're trying to get a feel for what hikers are looking for when they come into town, so we have different kinds of fuel and hiking sticks and little things they might use for repairs."

Moriba and Pitcher, who first opened the store in 2016, moved Ellis River Books into its new main street location over Memorial Day weekend. Moriba reported that books about Maine and New England, or by authors from Maine, tend to be most popular. The store features artwork for sale that was made by local artists, and the owners hope that the new Main Street location will serve as a hub for various community gatherings.

"I really am hoping this will be a space where people will come and find entertainment that's unplugged," said Moriba.


The New Press: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen


Greyhound Indie Bookstore Planned for Berlin, Md.

Greyhound Indie Bookstore will open in late September at 9 S. Main St. in Berlin, Md. The Ocean City Dispatch reported that owner Susan Ayres Wimbrow is "eager to bring the town something it's long been lacking."

"I'm going to have New York Times bestsellers, independent books and I want to feature the local and rich history we have here on the Eastern Shore," she said, adding that she has long wanted to open a bookstore and makes a habit of visiting those she comes across as she travels. "I always walk out of a bookstore and wonder why Berlin doesn't have one."

When Wimbrow learned that her tenant would be moving out of the Ayres building July 31, just as she was preparing for the release of her novel, Death is my Life, "I thought, well, now or never." Wimbrow will spend August renovating the building, which once housed a general store run by her great grandfather and his brother. The new shop "will be a classic bookstore with an English feel," the Dispatch noted.

"It's going to have a very comfortable feel," said Wimbrow. "It's a place they can sit and have quiet time and enjoy themselves and read."


KidsBuzz for the Week of 07.16.18


D.C.'s Solid State Books to Host Grand Opening July 14

Solid State Books, a new bookstore in Washington, D.C., that moved into a permanent location on June 21 after operating for some six months as a pop-up shop, will host a grand opening celebration during the weekend of July 14.

Solid State's 4,300-square-foot space, which includes a bookstore and cafe, is located at 600 H Street NE in the Apollo, a large-scale residential and retail development built on the site of the former Apollo theater. The bookstore carries some 25,000 titles, along with stationery, gifts and sidelines, while the cafe serves beer, wine, coffee, snacks and more. Solid State Books holds community events for children and adults and hosts a variety of book clubs.

Plans for the grand opening include a storytime session and performance by a balloon artist in the newly completed children's section, which features a canopy of tree branches and handmade felt leaves. The store will also be giving away galleys with purchases all day, and customers will be able to enter a raffle for a chance at signed books and Solid State merchandise. Solid State will also host a Summer Reading Bingo game for kids, inspired by a similar event run by Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga. The grand opening weekend will also mark the debut of the store and cafe's extended weekend hours for Fridays and Saturdays.

The store was founded last year by Scott Abel and Jake Cumsky-Whitlock, former longtime managers of Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, and was a pop-up store at the Apollo before getting a permanent location there.

"We're grateful for the warm welcome we received when we opened our pop-up shop, and are excited to expand what we started there into a cultural and intellectual hub that serves our community," said Cumsky-Whitlock.

"In addition to joining the many small businesses which give H Street its unique character, we’re fortunate to be in a very literary city and to be part of the thriving community of independent booksellers that help to make this city unique," Abel said.


Oxford University Press: Consent on Campus: A Manifesto by Donna Freitas


Porter Square Books Launches Writers in Residence Program

Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., has launched its own Writers in Residence program "in order to make the resources needed to write books more available to the writers and aspiring writers in our community." Porter Square will select two writers, one for adults and one for young readers, to serve a term from February 1 to October 31, 2019.

The chosen writers will receive a staff discount (40% off on "nearly everything") at the store and at Cafe Zing; access to the office after 5 p.m. during the week and all day on weekends when the store is open; access to galleys/ARCs; and "the chance to advocate for the books they love through staff picks."

Responsibilities include writing three bookish pieces for the blog; three event introductions or "in conversation" events for other authors; a "Welcome Reading" in February; and availability for Independent Bookstore Day. If the book being worked on while a resident is published, Porter Square will be the first choice to launch the book when it is released.

Introducing the initiative, Josh Cook, author of An Exaggerated Murder, wrote on the store's blog: "Working as a bookseller at Porter Square Books gave me access to the book world in ways I could never have imagined when I took the job. I learned about the inner workings of publishing, formed relationships with people throughout the industry, and stayed current with the books being written today. Not only did my work as a bookseller help me connect to publishers, I was also able to get to know other authors at all stages of their careers and, perhaps most importantly, through the staff discount and advance reader copies, I was able to afford far more new books than I ever could otherwise. Working at Porter Square Books gave me access and resources that directly helped me as a writer, both in terms of my career and my work....

"Over the last couple of years, we've had an ongoing conversation about how we can best provide the resources of the book world to our community. Writers are, of course, part of our community. Though we can't hire every writer in the greater Porter Square area, we still want to make some of the resources that were so important to our writers available to others."


Houghton Mifflin: The Goodnight Train Rolls On! by June Sobel, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith


Obituary Note: Lorain Day

Lorain Day, author, publisher "and friend to many in the New Zealand publishing industry," died June 28, Booksellers NZ reported. Day began her career in publishing almost 40 years ago as an editorial assistant at Heinemann, but it was at HarperCollins New Zealand that she made her mark. As publishing manager, "she supported and developed the careers of many new and established authors, both within New Zealand and on an international level. Her ability to build and maintain strong relationships with authors, agents and overseas connections resulted in a number of spectacular successes.... Lorain was a strong advocate of children's literature and the power of imaginative fiction."

Tony Fisk, former managing director of HarperCollins, recalled: "Above all else, Lorain was very much a 'people person.' She had a natural sensibility of people's feelings and a strong sense of justice. She provided her colleagues with tremendous support and common-sense advice. Eventually, some of the HR issues were formalized as part of her position, and she undertook them with total commitment and enthusiasm, as she did with every other aspect of her role."

Author Tessa Duder praised "her ability to make her authors feel cherished, their growth and careers important to her. Lorain's 'old-school' values of loyalty, optimism and enthusiasm remained central to the many enduring friendships she developed with authors. She will be remembered as an outstanding and influential publisher, and good friend."

Describing Day as "the consummate editor," author Ian Brodie said she was "passionate about her work, an expert wordsmith, a kind and loving person, a dear friend. I will miss our long chats about gardens and food, life and books. I will miss her terribly. Lorain knew everything about everything. She was always right but she was never superior. She made you feel like you were the best author in the world.... I am stumbling for words. I want to run this past Lorain first."


Disney-Hyperion: Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins


Notes

Image of the Day: #ToddParrDay at the SF Food Bank

Last weekend, children's book author Todd Parr lent a hand at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. He hosted more than 60 of his fans at the organization's San Francisco warehouse for a special volunteer shift. When the two-hour shift ended, the group had sorted and boxed up more than 9,000 pounds of fruit. Volunteers were also treated to a book reading, free signed copies of Parr's Love the World and a raffle in which Parr gave away a visit to one lucky child's school. "I think it's important for everyone to do what they can to help someone in need. Especially children--getting them involved in helping their communities early on in life can help build values of generosity and caring that will last a lifetime," Parr said. 


Bookshop Window Display of the Day: 57th Street Books

Posted Wednesday on Facebook by 57th Street Books, Chicago, Ill.: "We are very excited to unveil our very first author-curated window display! We'll let our first curator, the inimitable @eve.ewing, tell the story of how this project came to be."

Ewing, author of Electric Arches and Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side, noted on Instagram: "Once upon a time someone tagged me in a pic where Electric Arches was in the window of @57thstreetbooks. I replied and said that was really special to me because many years ago there used to be an employee who made the best window displays and I loved staring at them and in my heart my secret dream job was to make one. And then @57thstreetbooks replied and said... okay, come make one. so here’s my book display!!!!! NEW CAREER?!?!? go check it out! Featuring books I love :). It’ll be up all month."


Byrd's Books: 'Why Small Businesses Matter'

Alice Hutchinson, owner of Byrd's Books in Bethel, Conn., answered three questions posed by HamletHub regarding why small businesses matter to the town, including:

Finish this sentence in regard to your business. "I wish I could..."
I wish I could convey just how important downtowns are to a communty. Every time someone chooses to shop online, they are taking those valuable resources away from a local business. "Shop Local" means that a small business can keep the money in the community by hiring employees, paying taxes, and providing personalized service. Yes, it may cost a bit more, but I think the value to a community is well worth it. If you like your local shops, go into them and buy something! It makes a big difference.


HFS to Distribute University of South Carolina Press

Effective this fall, Hopkins Fulfillment Services will distribute the University of South Carolina Press. The press is also adopting HFS's Allbooks--designed exclusively for academic presses--as its title management system.

Established in 1944, the University of South Carolina Press is one of the oldest publishing houses in the South. It has more than 1,300 books in print and publishes 50 new titles annually.

A division of Johns Hopkins University Press, HFS represents Johns Hopkins University Press, University of Pennsylvania Press, University of Washington Press, Georgetown University Press, University Press of Kentucky, Catholic University of America Press, Baylor University Press and University of Massachusetts Press.


Media and Movies

On Stage: Harry Potter und das Verwunschene Kind

Building on the success of award-winning runs in London and New York, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will premiere in Germany in 2020, "marking the first non-English-language production of the hit play," Variety reported. Harry Potter und das Verwunschene Kind will open in Hamburg at the Mehr! Theater am Grossmarkt, which is getting "a large-scale redesign starting May 2019 and the play will premiere the following spring." Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is based on a story from J.K. Rowling, dramatist Jack Thorne and theater director John Tiffany.

"We know Harry Potter has millions of German-speaking fans and so we're very proud that we are able to bring our beautiful production to Germany," said producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender in a joint statement. "The Mehr! Theater am Großmarkt in Hamburg is a unique space, and we're delighted and grateful to have the opportunity to design and create a perfect, bespoke new home for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in Germany."


Movies: Think of a Number

Innis Lake Entertainment has optioned the film and television rights to John Verdon's Dave Gurney mystery book series. Deadline reported that Richard Wernham "has been tapped to pen a screenplay for the film adaptation, which will center on the events on the first book, Think of a Number." Nick Wernham is attached to direct.

"I'm delighted at the prospect of seeing Dave Gurney come to life on the screen, and I suspect that thousands of readers of the Gurney series will share my feeling," said Verdon.



Books & Authors

Awards: SIBA's Southern Book; Branford Boase

On Independence Day, winners were unveiled for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance 2018 Southern Book Prize (formerly the SIBA Book Award). These are the books that Southern bookstores were most passionate about and inspired the most "you've got to read this" and "handsell" moments in stores across the region because they "represent the best of Southern literature, from the people who would know--Southern indie booksellers," SIBA noted. The 2018 Southern Book Prize winners are:

Fiction
Women & family:
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (Algonquin)
Literary: The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (Morrow)
Mystery, thriller & suspense: Gradle Bird by J. C. Sasser (Koehler Books)
Southern fiction: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Ballantine)
Juvenile fiction: Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley (Dial); Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh (Putnam)

Nonfiction
Biography & history:
Coretta: My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King (Picador USA)
Nonfiction: Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson (St. Martin's )

---

Mitch Johnson won the £1,000 (about $1,320) Branford Boase Award, which is given annually to the author and editor of the outstanding debut novel for children, for Kick. Rebecca Hill and Becky Walker, his editors at Usborne, were each presented with a hand-crafted silver-inlaid box.

Chair of the judges Julia Eccleshare, children's director of the Hay Festival, said, "Kick is an adventure story that connects U.K. readers with a boy living a completely different and tough life halfway across the world; it is a book full of humor and heart. At a time when many children's books seem to be looking inward, Mitch Johnson has written a book about a global issue, encouraging children to think about the way the world works, and even how they could effect change. But each of the seven books on our shortlist would be worthy winners of the award and are proof of the talent of children's writers and editors in 2018."

M.G. Leonard, last year's winner and a judge for the 2018 award, described Kick as "skillfully written and perfectly paced. Mitch Johnston has produced a fantastically original debut that champions hope, dogged optimism in the face of adversity, and friendship. This book needs to be on the bookshelf of every school library, not just because it will encourage empathy, but because it's a great book. Mitch Johnston is definitely one to watch."

Sharon Cohen and her editor, Sarah Lambert, were awarded a Highly Commended for The Starman and Me, published by Quercus.


Reading with... Jeffery Paine

photo: H. Ostler
Jeffery Paine holds a Ph.D. in cross-cultural intellectual history from Princeton University and has taught at Princeton and other universities. He has served as the literary editor of the Smithsonian's Wilson Quarterly and as a judge of the Pulitzer Prize. In his newest book, Enlightenment Town: Finding Spiritual Awakening in a Most Improbable Place (New World Library, May 20, 2018), he offers a witty, in-depth exploration of "the Shambhala of the Rockies"--the tiny mountain town Crestone, Colo.--and its spiritual inhabitants.
 
On your nightstand now:
 
I have no nightstand. However, the floor around my bed is so littered with books temporarily shipwrecked in mid-reading it's a nightly miracle that, when I wake up to urinate, I don't trip.
 
Among these, the most unlikely (for me) are those about quantum mechanics and relativity. I devour them, though understanding only a fraction, because they and the Tibetan Buddhism I sometimes write about dovetail so incredibly. Contemporary physics makes the wild visions of Tibetan Buddhism plausible; Tibetan Buddhism gives the abstractions of physics a human resonance. Together they help answer what Einstein said was the last great question facing physics--"Is the Universe friendly?"--and answer it in the loveliest way.
 
Specifically, for physics reading: Reality Is Not What It Seems by Carlo Rovelli. And for Tibetan reading: Drinking the Mountain Stream by Milarepa.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:
 
Well, that childhood transpired in rural East Texas, where adorable Eeyore-able donkeys and cuddly Pooh bears searching for pots of honey never came sallying by. Instead, on that children's book thrill-o-meter, what registered most delight was the Bobbsey Twins series. Especially when the hard-of-hearing aunt would mishear something--say, "I'd like a drink" as "the bike's in the sink!" Funny, funny, funny--take a giggling three-year-old's laughter as testimony.
 
Your top five authors:
 
W.B. Yeats, Shakespeare, Henry James, Plutarch and Barbara Pym.
 
Book you've faked reading:
 
I faked reading a book that, to my embarrassment, did not exist. As college freshmen, we were sitting around naming our favorite authors. (Common answers back there would have been John Steinbeck and Albert Camus.) I had read in Life magazine's The World's Great Religions some wonderful sayings by the 19th-century Indian saint or "godhead" Sri Ramakrishna. Never short of pretentiousness, I pronounced Ramakrishna to be my favorite author. It may not have been the most intelligent answer. For Ramakrishna, I later learned, was entirely illiterate and never wrote a word.
 
Book you're an evangelist for:
 
Dearly Beloved Reader, if ever I am an evangelist for anything, take me out and shoot me. Of course, like everyone I make heartfelt book recommendations, but on a one-on-one personal basis, not so much books that I enjoyed or needed, but ones the particular individual I'm talking to might need or enjoy.
 
Okay, take me out and shoot me, for I'm about to evangelize. Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teachings and Anam Thubten's The Magic of Awareness extract Buddhist insights from their original context and make their helpfulness available to anyone--atheists, too. They open at this late day a new window on personhood, and not only a window, they open the doors and walls and roof, vast light streaming in.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:
 
I actually bought it because of the blurb on the cover. At a quick glance I thought the cover quote was from Colin Thubron, whose writing I respect, but in fact it was by Colin Wilson, whom I'm less sure of. If I'd realized it was Wilson not Thubron, I wouldn't have bought the book, and thus have deprived myself of reading possibly the best travel book on India, Paul William Roberts's Empire of the Soul.
 
Book you hid from your parents:
 
Probably copies of the same books they were hiding from me--e.g., Peyton Place or Harold Robbins--though we were mainly amused by each other's literary hide-and-seek.
 
Book that changed your life:
 
Two authors with two books each influenced the boy turning into man: Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies and his Letters, and William Butler Yeats's poetry and his autobiography. They showed a know-nothing kid from Goose Creek, Tex., that life could be lived creatively and nobly, and how deep, rich and adventuresome it was even to try.
 
Favorite line from a book:
 
The line I have quoted most in my life: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." --F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Crack-up.
 
Runner-up: Bertolt Brecht's refrain from "Von der Kindsmörderin, Marie Farrar":
 
"But you, I beg you, check your wrath and scorn/ For man needs help from every creature born."
 
Five books you'll never part with:
 
Never?!? A grisly, gruesome image forms in my mind. The gravediggers are trying to coerce my corpse into the grave, but my corpse keeps yelling, "Not unless I can take these five books with me!"
 
For five books not to be parted with now, I might choose autographed ones, for someday they might be worth something and I'll likely need the cash. Three of them are signed by Nobel Prize winners (Günter Grass, Orhan Pamuk and Kenzaburō Ōe). A fourth could be The Optimist's Daughter by that dearest and shrewdest of American writers, Eudora Welty. And a fifth, Self-Consciousness by John Updike, whom I liked for--it was so companionable--how he made literature out of contemporary issues and tensions and as well explored what was happening in writing all around the world.
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
 
A toss-up, a tie:
 
(1) Peter Freuchen's Book of the Eskimos: never was hardship happier or more heroic; never were a remote people more fascinating; and reading him, a strong but energizing Arctic wind blew through my staid existence.
 
(2) The novels and stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer: for how he re-created, both from the inside and the outside, a doomed, magical, larger-than-life world of lost Judaism. Singer's work offers a great banquet for the heart/mind--call it a wedding banquet--where radiant wonder marries tragic history, and every manner of guest (character) is in attendance.
 
Book you would recommend for understanding the predicament in which the U.S. now finds itself:
 
Here goes the anti-proselytizer proselytizing again. Every American who votes should read (so I'd urge) Jane Mayer's Dark Money, showing how the Koch brothers and allied billionaires de-railed American democracy to bring about the sorry eco-political era we are in the midst of now.

Book Review

Review: The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization

The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser (Riverhead, $28 hardcover, 304p., 9780399576423, August 7, 2018)

Like Mark Kurlansky's single-focus books about cod and salt, investigative journalist Vince Beiser's first book is a rich study of one of the world's most abundant natural resources: sand. With a balance of statistics, science, history, on-the-scene reporting and some healthy environmental skepticism, The World in a Grain highlights the ways this ubiquitous global commodity has been essential to human development and advancement.
 
Sand is indispensable to global shelter, mobility and convenience. Mixed with cement it makes concrete. When near-pure sand is melted, it becomes glass. Special quartz sand is refined into flawless silicon to produce computer chips like those that established the eponymous California valley. Scarce round grain sand from Wisconsin and Minnesota provides the raw material for the high-pressure "fracking" of oil and gas wells. Major cities such as Dubai, Chicago, Lagos, Singapore and Hong Kong have created whole neighborhoods out of transported and dredged sand. And, of course, where would the snowbirds go if there weren't miles and miles of coastal sand beaches? No wonder Beiser calls sand "the literal foundation of modern civilization."
 
Chapter by chapter, Beiser investigates the role sand has played in world history. Without reinforced concrete, for example, the massive urban centers that hold most of the world's population wouldn't exist. As he emphasizes: "Concrete is an invention as transformative as fire or electricity.... Measured by the number of lives it touches, concrete is easily the most important man-made material ever invented." To put the rapid rise of urbanization in historical context, he points out that "China alone used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the United States used in the entire twentieth century." That's a lot of sand and gravel aggregate to dig out of the earth. Besides buildings themselves, concrete and its stepchild, asphalt, also transformed the very heart of commercial transportation and personal mobility, moving the United States from 141 miles of paved roads in 1904 to today's 2.7 million miles supporting 256 million motor vehicles.
 
Each life-enhancing application of sand and its many manufactured manifestations, however, creates a drain on the supply of this seemingly most common of resources. With balanced reporting, Beiser also explores the environmental and social implications of sand mining, the interstate highway system, fracking and the overbuilding of shoreline towers and marinas. For example, he observes that flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston was exacerbated by so much impervious concrete preventing natural absorption of all the rain. Or in Jakarta, with its 28 million people, "the unfathomable weight of all that concrete is slowly squashing the ground beneath it." In lucid prose, The World in a Grain illustrates the many marvels sand has brought to the world--while at the same time cautioning that without prudent use, the environment and sand's economic availability are threatened. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.
 
Shelf Talker: With a judicious mix of statistics, science and on-site reporting, journalist Beiser's first book explores the extraordinary role of sand in world development and some of the future risks.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Reading the World Cup in a Ticket Stub

"If England win tonight, come & celebrate with us at our Late Shopping evening tomorrow!" the London Review Bookshop tweeted on Tuesday, just hours before the Three Lions advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals with a win over Colombia. With hard-earned British practicality/fatalism, the bookseller also hedged its bets: "If England lose tonight, come & commiserate with us at our Late Shopping Evening tomorrow! If you couldn't care less either way, come to our Late Shopping Evening!"

Despite the failure of the U.S. men's team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there's plenty of excitement on this side of the pond as well. For example, Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga., tweeted: "We are WORLD CUP CRAZY at Little Shop! We think we might have more soccer books than anyone. Ever. In the history of books. Come by and peruse our extensive collection! #worldcup."

In today's issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers, I highlight a few books on the beautiful game and celebrate the fact that this weekend's quarterfinal matches will include England, my "home side" by heritage (Gray and Turner are surnames on my father's side). Also mentioned with fondness are Roger Bennett and Michael Davies, the legendary (since the 2014 World Cup anyway) Men in Blazers, who also happen to be co-authors of Men in Blazers Present Encyclopedia Blazertannica: A Suboptimal Guide to Soccer, America's Sport of the Future Since 1972 (Knopf). Their recent national tour was considerably more than suboptimal.

George Carroll, whose review of Encyclopedia Blazertannica appeared not long ago in Shelf Awareness for Readers, posted a Roger Bennett quote on Facebook last month from a huge MiB event in Seattle, Wash.: "I just want to thank Elliott Bay Book Company... The first time I came to Seattle, I wandered into the Elliott Bay bookstore. I spent hours there perusing it. I loved it. It's a passionate place of wonder... Support Elliott Bay bookstore; it's truly amazing."

Bennett, a Brit who just became a U.S. citizen on June 1, wrote an extended analysis of the state of American soccer on Facebook recently, making several cogent points, including:

  • American Football Fandom is both hyper-local and deeply connected to the global, with no contradiction between the two.
  • The audience is so young.
  • It is hard to exaggerate the level of hope invested in the U.S. Women's Team ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Even if the American men's team had qualified, however, I'd still be rooting for England because of a tradition I can trace directly back to 1966 for three key reasons: I was playing soccer every day; England won its lone World Cup championship; and I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime (or my lifetime, at least) event, the memories of which I can still conjure up from an old, talismanic ticket stub, faded red, with a few words and numbers printed on it:

Enter Gate 2
Section 34, Row H, Seat 14
Mezza Stand $6.00
World Championship Soccer
Yankee Stadium
Mon. Aft. Sept. 5, 1966

Just an old ticket stub, but mnemonic and iconic. That I can read it and find a story says a lot about imagination, memory, and the art of storytelling.

I was 16 years old when I used this ticket. A few weeks before, my high school soccer coach had asked if I wanted to join him and a couple of my teammates to see an exhibition game at Yankee Stadium: Santos of Brazil, featuring a 26 year old star named Pelé, against Inter Milan of Italy.

I surprised myself by saying yes to my coach. I was terrified by the idea of taking a trip like that. I was just a Vermont kid who'd never been within a hundred miles of New York City; who'd just begun his love affair with an old, international game that was still new to most of the U.S., and certainly new to my little town. Our high school had launched a club soccer team in 1965. We were about to begin our first season as a sanctioned team in the Marble Valley League, which was dominated in those days by Proctor High School's players, many of whom were the sons or grandsons of immigrant marble workers. They knew the game from birth in ways we never would. They literally and figuratively kicked our ass every time we played them.

But none of that mattered on a hot September day in Yankee Stadium, which was packed with 41,598 fans (I looked it up). Both teams were late. The crowd got restless and a little crazy, but when the players finally hit the field, all was forgiven. The noise didn't stop until long after the game ended.

Santos won. Pelé scored. It was a good day. If I hadn't been a soccer convert before then, I certainly was after. I continued to play the game through high school and college, and my love for it has never wavered. Therein lies the path to real passion for a sport; the kind of passion that can be rekindled simply by reading an old ticket stub, faded red.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

KidsBuzz: Clavis: Benji & the Giant Kite by Alan C. Fox, illustrated by Eefje Kuijl
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